Coming Home

“Only you,” a friend said when I told her I had been asked to speak at a fundraiser for a cancer research foundation. I had just moved back to Detroit two days earlier and serendipitously met the director of the foundation. The fundraiser was a fashion show based on the themes of the Wizard of Oz—brains, courage, heart and home. I was asked to speak about home. I shared the following story about my coming home:

My cousin Marlene was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October, 2008. She and her husband lived in Phoenix, AZ, and I visited them the following May. By then, Marlene had finished traditional treatment and was enrolled in an experimental protocol.

“Why don’t you go home?” I asked Marlene.

“I am going to beat this,” she said, “and if I go home, that is like saying I am going to die.”

“No,” I said. “You can go home and beat this there or not, but you will be with family.”

At home, in Michigan, Marlene had children, grandchildren, siblings and our large extended family. But, she would not consider my suggestion. Seven months after my visit, Marlene died in Arizona.

Marlene’s illness and death rocked me and made me reconsider my own situation. I, too, was living away from family, and I began to wonder what would happen if I became seriously ill. I came to realize that once Marlene got sick, it was impossible for her to move home because she had neither the physical nor emotional strength needed for such a move.

I soon decided that I wanted to move home to Michigan, and I shared my decision with my friend Jim. One week after that, Jim had a seizure and was diagnosed with a very aggressive, non-curable brain cancer. He had had no symptoms.

He underwent surgery, chemo and radiation to extend his life; but we knew from the beginning that he would not live long.

Jim asked me to help him to live until he died. He did not want to be kept alive or to live or die in the hospital. He lived with me the last seven months of his life and died a very peaceful death on April 3, 2012, at home, with his dog by his side.

During Jim’s illness, we often talked about how important it is to know where we are “at home.” We also talked about my moving back to Michigan to be near my family.

Three weeks ago, I moved home. I was fortunate to get a job at the Mercy Education Project, a literacy program in Detroit, which is the same work I had been doing in Philadelphia. I sold my house in Pennsylvania within two weeks, and I have already bought a house here.

I take all of these as signs that I am in the right place, and I agree with Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: “There is no place like home.”

11 thoughts on “Coming Home

  1. Anne Marie Lom

    Though I am a ways from Detroit, I am in the Midwest, so I can say, “Welcome, home, Madeline”. Thank you for sharing, time after time, the personal events of your growth, bravery and common sense. I am glad to read your insights.

    1. Madeline Bialecki

      Anne Marie, I am adjusting to the Midwestern way of life–a bit more relaxed than life out east. I am thinking of creating a bucket list of the midwest, and I will definitely put Wisconsin on the list.

  2. Jean Mulcahy

    Thanks, Madeline. I miss you but I am glad you are “at home.” And thank you again, and again, for being here and far all you did to assure Jim always felt “at home” during his illness.


    Hi Madeline,

    You really are a powerful writer. I was very touched by this. So glad you are putting all the pieces together. We miss you in the club. Last night we had the installation for Hillard. Always a nice event. He will be a good leader. He has been encouraging us to do a Global Grant with a reverse grant -meaning that we will be looking for international support to help with a project in Chester. The plan is to develop financial literacy programs for youth but also to develop one for adults. Hoping to work with the DCLC.  We are still in the planning stages.

    Best wishes – I for one, enjoy reading you work.

    Take care.

    Anne Hansen

  4. Maria Strauman

    Fran often talks about the role serendipity plays in our lives and so much of your writing brings that to the fore. Thanks for sharing your home with Jim. And I’m happy to know you feel at home in Michigan now, too. Take care.

  5. eileen

    So I am learning to live here in the mtns of east tennessee knowing there are bear around our home. And coyotes are beautiful vocalists, get ’em started they l ove hearing their own voices.
    Starting over seems like gain and pain, I cannot get past missing daily Mass, but like Sr Julie once said, ‘He will supply other ways to keep you close’. Just attending the 100 mile round trip each Sunday has become amazing!

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thanks Eileen, for a different perspective. While you are driving through the mountains, I am driving through the east side of Detroit to get to work each day. It, too, stirs my spirit.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s